Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs
Editorial from The Wellington (New Zealand)
OPINION: Blame who you will for the collision that sank the Ady Gil, but the person who should hang his head in shame is Murray McCully.
Though the Member of Parliament for Albany, Mr McCully lives in Wellington. We expect better of a Wellingtonian.
The Sea Shepherd anti-whaling protesters, who engineered the potentially lethal confrontations, and Japan's Institute of Cetaceous Research, which seems dedic-ated to finding out how much money it can make from hunting whales to extinction, have exchanged accusations and will no doubt continue to do so.
In an ideal world, the culprit would be flushed out in the wash of official investigations.
Maritime New Zealand Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission are both legally charged with looking into incidents involving New Zealand-registered ships. Their Japanese counterparts have similar responsibilities.
Yet our Minister of Foreign Affairs seems more concerned that the incident could strain New Zealand-Japanese relat-ions and has made judgmental pronouncements about the collision, blaming the victims, who were nearly killed.
Mr McCully said New Zealand citizens who had "clearly been behaving in a manner that has put life at risk", had gone into the southern ocean looking for trouble and there was nothing he could do to stop them except "urge them to improve their conduct".
He has also dwelt at length on Sea Shepherd's obstructive practices, such as its use of lasers and propeller-fouling ropes, but has omitted to mention the water cannon and military hardware the whalers have employed.
Mr McCully has clearly taken a side and it has been against the New Zealanders. Broadcast video footage shows the Japanese ship Shohan Maru powering into the Ady Gil, though one maritime safety expert has said there was fault on both sides.
The court of public opinion will no doubt condemn one or the other of the two skippers.
However, it is difficult to believe the authorities charged with officially investigating the near-tragedy will be allowed to reach an impartial judgement.
Justice Peter Mahon was once pilloried by the Muldoon government for finding fault with the national airline in an earlier Antarctic tragedy, the Erebus disaster.
He was publicly humiliated for nothing more than diligently conducting his inquiry and daring to find fault with a government corporation.
In the immediate aftermath of the Erebus crash, we heard similar words from Mr Muldoon as he sought to pre-empt Justice Mahon's investigation.
To some extent the New Zealanders concerned have placed themselves in harm's way, but that does not excuse the Foreign Affairs Minister from representing the interests of his country and his countrymen.
Japan may be one of the world's biggest powers and New Zealand one of the smallest, but that makes strong representation even more important.
Mr McCully was correct in saying he could do nothing to safeguard those who chose to put themselves at risk.
Irrespective of that, if Japanese nationals have acted with illegal hostility they must be called on it.
So far Mr McCully has neglected to do that and has done his best to pre-empt the investigations. Worse, his words have been reprehensibly pro-Japanese and anti-New Zealand.